Introduction: Many people residing in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) are regularly exposed to catastrophic healthcare expenditure. It is therefore pertinent that LMICs should finance their health systems in ways that ensure that their citizens can use needed healthcare services and are protected from potential impoverishment arising from having to pay for services. Ways of financing health systems include government funding, health insurance schemes and out-of-pocket payment. A health insurance scheme refers to pooling of prepaid funds in a way that allows for risks to be shared. The health insurance scheme particularly suitable for the rural poor and the informal sector in LMICs is community-based health insurance (CBHI), that is, insurance schemes operated by organisations other than governments or private for-profit companies. We plan to search for and summarise currently available evidence on factors associated with the uptake of CBHI, as we are not aware of previous systematic reviews that have looked at this important topic. Methods: This is a protocol for a systematic review of the literature. We will include both quantitative and qualitative studies in this review. Eligible quantitative studies include intervention and observational studies. Qualitative studies to be included are focus group discussions, direct observations, interviews, case studies and ethnography. We will search EMBASE, PubMed, Scopus, ERIC, PsycInfo, Africa-Wide Information, Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, WHOLIS, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library for eligible studies available by 31 October 2013, regardless of publication status or language of publication. We will also check reference lists of included studies and proceedings of relevant conferences and contact researchers for eligible studies. Two authors will independently screen the search output, select studies and extract data, resolving discrepancies by consensus and discussion. Qualitative data will be extracted using standardised data extraction tools adapted from the Critical Appraisal Skills Program (CASP) qualitative appraisal checklist and put together in a thematic analysis where applicable. We will statistically pool data from quantitative studies in a meta-analysis; but if included quantitative studies differ significantly in study settings, design and/or outcome measures, we will present the findings in a narrative synthesis. This protocol has been registered with PROSPERO (ID=CRD42013006364). Dissemination: Recommendations will be made to health policy makers, managers and researchers in LMICs to help inform them on ways to strengthen and increase the uptake of CBHI.